Waters off Long Island home to nearly a dozen shipwrecks

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Local diver, researcher and author Adam Grohman gave a talk at Riverhead Free Library Saturday afternoon about his book 'Claimed by the Sea, Long Island Shipwrecks.'

The Costa Concordia is making headlines and Titanic is coming in 3-D to a theater near you, but some folks don’t realize Long Island has its own history of shipwrecks.

Diver, researcher and author Adam Grohman of Long Island gave a talk at Riverhead Free Library Saturday afternoon about his book “Claimed by the Sea, Long Island Shipwrecks.”

The book takes an in-depth look at 11 shipwrecks and maritime disasters in the waters of Long Island and New York. He looks into the circumstances around their their demise and exploration of them by divers and explorers.

Mr. Grohman is a boatswain mate in the United States Coast Guard Reserve and his book is published by the Underwater Historical Research Society.

He said that to him shipwrecks equal history.

“When diving you feel like you are in touch with the past,” Mr. Grohman said. “They are time capsules of equipment and design. It is an underwater looking glass into the lives of past generations.”

Some of the wrecks he talked about in depth were the Lexington 220-foot, long-side wheel steamer that caught on fire on Jan. 13, 1840 in the Long Island Sound. One hundred and fifty people died and only four survived. The ship was headed to New York from Connecticut. It sank near the Eaton’s Neck lighthouse off the coast of Huntington.

The most famous Long Island shipwreck was the Louis V. Place — a 163-foot-long schooner that went down in the Great South Bay on Feb. 8, 1895. It was within sight of the beach, but the winds were blowing so hard the Captain and seven men aboard tied themselves to the rigging of the ship. Claus Stuvens, who had survived five other shipwreck, was the only man aboard the Louis V. Place to survive that night.

Martin Anderson took photos of the shipwrecked schooner from the shore and afterwards Stuvens went door-to-door to sell them.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that more than 1,000 people journeyed across the ice on the Great South Bay from Bay Shore to Bellport to view the wreck. Two of the seaman who perished in the rigging are buried in a cemetery in Patchogue.

The worst loss of life in a local shipwreck happened on June 14, 1904 when the excursion wooden vessel General Slocum caught fire in the waters of ‘Hell’s Gate’ off of Astoria, Queens. Entire families were wiped out when 1,100 people perished.

Mr. Grohman called it “a tragedy of epic proportions.”